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Old 08-31-07, 07:04 PM   #1
brucewiley
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City park camping

Last week I pulled into Unity, Oregon after a 68 mile day heading west. The RV campground there looked kind of ratty but some local on a bike told me that the city park behind the fire station is a great place to camp and free. Hey, nice bathrooms, soft grass and a great view. How cool!

Didn't bother to put the rain fly on my tent as the weather was great, kicked back a couple of brews and hit the sack.

Yes, 11:30 that night the automatic sprinkler system kicked in. Frantically I placed rocks or bricks in front of the nozzles then went back to my semi wet down sleeping bag. I managed to get back to sleep but at 3:30 a different set of sprinklers popped off, up again re-locating my rocks and bricks. Bed was much wetter this time.

Damned if one hour later the first set blasted me again, another round with the rocks and I didn't sleep much after that one. It wasn't long I just got up and started packing up to get the heck out of there, just as I was getting ready to leave that second set of sprinklers hit me again.

Ok, this all wasn't too funny at the time but it will be one of those things I laugh about for years to come. I only did 10 miles that next day up into the forrest to a campground where I just dried out for the day.

Beware of city parks! And I hope you also can get a laugh out of this with me now that I'm home and comfy.

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Old 08-31-07, 07:17 PM   #2
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The green grass surrounded bt brown prarie grass would tell me something.
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Old 08-31-07, 07:32 PM   #3
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your lucky it was only water you had to deal with in the park........here you would have gotten beaten (or worse) and robbed by junkies for your stuff.
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Old 08-31-07, 10:39 PM   #4
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How funny!

We tried camping in a public park once for our first time out free camping in Canada. We didn't get beaten up by junkies for our stuff but we did get woken up by two groups of teenagers coming down to the local hangout spot.

Since then we've gotten a bit smarter about our free camping and generally don`t go for places like that, no matter how good they look in the daytime, unless we`re really desperate.

I hear Japan is great for free camping in parks though, very friendly people apparently. Have read plenty of tales of people camping in parks, roundabouts, just about anywhere and never having more "trouble" than someone waking them up early to bring them breakfast!
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Old 09-01-07, 01:05 AM   #5
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Good story! I love the reaction, too. There are alleged bike tourists on this forum who, terrified even of their stationary exercise bicycles, will never leave their sofas lest their fragile lives ever be menaced by threats just half as terrifying as you have described. For the rest of us: Sanctioned small town park camping is, in fact, a category of accommodations that is difficult to surpass for luxury and atmosphere.
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Old 09-01-07, 01:37 AM   #6
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I agree with the last part, free parks can be great. Right now it is draught like and watering is obvious but not always so. Still the whole thing would have been solved with the fly. I rarely leave it off because I seem too likely to get caught out if I do.
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Old 09-01-07, 01:40 AM   #7
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QUOTE=Takara;5188804]Good story! I love the reaction, too. There are alleged bike tourists on this forum who, terrified even of their stationary exercise bicycles, will never leave their sofas lest their fragile lives ever be menaced by threats just half as terrifying as you have described.[/qoute]

not saying those idyllic parks dont exist, just saying they are the exception, not the rule.

and for the record i average about 5,000 to 8000kms a year touring around the country..........HARDLY a "paranoid armchair cyclist"
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Old 09-01-07, 04:16 AM   #8
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reminds me of that scene in Happy Gilmore.....
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Old 09-01-07, 06:24 AM   #9
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Heh. I've had 3 nighttime sprinkler attacks. After the first one, I always used my fly in parks.
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Old 09-01-07, 07:40 AM   #10
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the attack of the sprinklers. funny stuff, in retrospect.

I fondly remember hopping like mad in my sleeping bag to escape the attack of the sprinklers after sleeping out tentless on a nice grassy lawn.
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Old 09-01-07, 08:03 AM   #11
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Great story!

And anyone who thinks camping in a public park is a bad idea or dangerous---well, let's just say they haven't been to Unity Oregon.
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Old 09-01-07, 01:48 PM   #12
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^ i would love to experience a vagrant, junkie free park......we just dont get that oppurtunity here, thanks in part to a exploding meth problem.
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Old 09-01-07, 04:40 PM   #13
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I was sleeping on a picnic table in a city park in Missouri and awakened to see two flashlights approaching from different directions. It was the cops checking out the "dead body" on the picnic table.
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Old 09-01-07, 09:36 PM   #14
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I agree with the last part, free parks can be great. Right now it is draught like and watering is obvious but not always so. Still the whole thing would have been solved with the fly. I rarely leave it off because I seem too likely to get caught out if I do.
Yep. A month touring in Scotland taught me that the rain can start at any time, and I suppose sprinklers in city camping grounds are just another reason for it. About the only time I leave the fly off is if it's so hot that I don't mind getting wet. Otherwise, it goes up before I settle in for the night.
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Old 09-02-07, 03:13 AM   #15
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I was sleeping on a picnic table in a city park in Missouri and awakened to see two flashlights approaching from different directions. It was the cops checking out the "dead body" on the picnic table.

Same thing happened to me (except one cop, one flashlight, no picnic table) near Beaumont, TX -- he screamed, then started laughing hysterically. Coolest cop encounter I ever had.

not saying those idyllic parks dont exist, just saying they are the exception, not the rule.

I'm sorry you've had such bad luck. In my experience, a little town that decides to welcome strangers to camp for free in its city park is overflowing with generosity and character. My last experience of this was last April in Marion, South Dakota. Folks go for after-dinner walks in the park with their dogs and kids and they came over and chatted and asked questions and made it clear that they appreciated that I'd chosen to stay in their town.

Now that I think about it, the next best couple of good city park camping memories I have are also from South Dakota. Is South Dakota just a friendly, generous state? Well, I do think it's a friendly, generous state -- but I've city-park camped in a bunch of other states, too, and have always had a good throwback-to-old-fashioned-hospitality experience.

Is it really true that there are small towns out there that continue to welcome campers in their park despite "beatings by junkies" and the other paranoia from above? If so, I'd definitely like to hear more, because that doesn't square with my experience or my sense of reality out there in small-town America.
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Old 09-02-07, 03:41 AM   #16
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When you camp in parks, do you actually ask someone for permission or do you just wander up and find yourself welcomed by the locals?

In Europe, most parks have signs up that say camping is not allowed, if not in the park itself than in the district or region so I can't imagine asking anyone for permission to camp there. Although we have never been moved on, we have certainly met people who have and it wouldn't surprise me if we were asked to move for free camping in a country like Germany, for example. If we have to camp in a semi-public place we always try and wait until the last minute to put our tent up but almost all our wild camping has been done as out of sight as possible.
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Old 09-02-07, 04:22 AM   #17
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When you camp in parks, do you actually ask someone for permission or do you just wander up and find yourself welcomed by the locals?

Avatarwolf, I think we're only talking about small towns in the United States that have a local park with a bunch of visible signs that say, "Free camping permitted here." This is by no means the norm in small-town America, but it's also not exotic -- there are plenty of cool little towns in America that think it's a good idea to welcome interesting outsiders to share their community for a night or two without worrying that this will inevitably turn their children into meth addicts.
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Old 09-02-07, 05:13 AM   #18
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When you camp in parks, do you actually ask someone for permission or do you just wander up and find yourself welcomed by the locals?

Avatarwolf, I think we're only talking about small towns in the United States that have a local park with a bunch of visible signs that say, "Free camping permitted here." This is by no means the norm in small-town America, but it's also not exotic -- there are plenty of cool little towns in America that think it's a good idea to welcome interesting outsiders to share their community for a night or two without worrying that this will inevitably turn their children into meth addicts.
Wow, parks with "camping permitted" signs... really??! Sounds like heaven! I have never yet seen that in Europe.

My take on the meths discussion was not that locals thought outsiders would turn their kids into addicts, but rather that you wouldn't want to camp in many parks because of the drug addicts that hang out there. That would always be my concern with sleeping in a park -- who knows who will turn up in the middle of the night. That's why we prefer to be out of sight in most cases.
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Old 09-02-07, 04:08 PM   #19
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Much of small town America has some sort of free camping, if you'll ask locals. So I always ask. Sometimes it's a city park, or the bank of the river outside of town, or some little lake behind a hill. Locals need a place to camp, fish and picnic, right? And they aren't going to pay for it. So there often is an unoffical campground that's often better than the ones you have to pay for. Just ask about it at the local mini-mart. Your local Baptist Church is even a better bet.

The only trouble I've really had with the *locals only* camping spots is with drunk teenagers. But most of the time they get lost if you threaten to tell their folks.........
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Old 09-02-07, 10:00 PM   #20
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Yes, Unity, Oregon is a thriving metropolis of 131 souls according to the census & it's not a hotbed of crime. Actually a pretty nice place where you don't need to worry about locking your bike.

I didn't mention that the local folk's dogs all came to watch me cook dinner that night too. How quaint.

Thanks for the great replies! All rested up here after the 9 days on the road in Oregon and ready for the next adventure.

Bruce
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Old 09-03-07, 03:32 PM   #21
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Oh yes the nighttime hustle when the sprinkles kick in. One night some place in Montana I was camping in a city park along with a young couple. Arrounf 2 am I thought it was begining to rain but when I looked out my tent I saw stars. A few minutes later I heard lots of noise and some sware words. Zone 1 sprinklers stopped and zone 2 started the young couple had their tent on top of a hidden sprinkler head. These folks were moving real fast getting their stuff out to the road i decided my area was next so I broke camp too.

Id seen this couple for a few days on the road and after that i never ran into them again
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Old 09-03-07, 03:58 PM   #22
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Great story.
Didn't you think of taking a sprinkler bath ?
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Old 09-03-07, 04:46 PM   #23
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Sprinkler heads can be stealthy but there are a few subtle signs for which one can watch to avoid them. 1) Lush grass growth in small, circular areas - above and beyond other areas of the park, 2) a patch of grass with the grass blades bent outward in a circular pattern - sort of like a mini-crop circle. The pattern is usually 360 degrees but, at times, the caretaker has set a sprinkler head to rotate at less than a full circle. One can usually camp in the non-bending arc with relative safety ... unless another sprinkler head is aimed at it.
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Old 09-05-07, 08:58 AM   #24
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^ i would love to experience a vagrant, junkie free park......we just dont get that oppurtunity here, thanks in part to a exploding meth problem.
When I do my first solo tour from Mississippi to Virginia next summer, Im gonna be packing heat. Thank God I'll finally be 21!
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